Dried herbs hold summer's flavors

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Drying an herb is like concentrating a bit of summer into a jar, and that summery essence can be doled out through winter. Not all herbs hold their flavors after being dried.

Pick herbs for drying when they have their maximum concentrations of flavors, usually in the cool of early morning, just after the dew has evaporated.

The most primitive method to dry herbs is to bundle the leafy stems together, then hang them upside down indoors. Keep bundles loose so that air can circulate to the center of the bundles. Bind them together with wet string, which shrinks as it dries, or with rubber bands so that stems don't fall free as they dry.

The ideal place to hang these bundles of herbs is in a room that is dark and warm, with good air circulation. For even better flavor retention, dry the leaves in a microwave. This also helps the leaves hold their color better.

The leaves are finished drying when they are brittle. Pack dried leaves into airtight jars .

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